500X Alumna Interview: Iris Bechtol
500X: Tell us a little about yourself. What is your artistic background?
IB: I am a true Texan, I was born in Dallas and have lived here all my life. I guess you could say I like it hot. I live with my husband, Brennen Bechtol and our daughter in Oak Cliff. I earned my BFA from The University of North Texas with a concentration in photography and my MFA from The University of Texas at Arlington with a concentration in Intermedia. I am an artist, curator, and educator. I am currently Gallery Director at Eastfield College in Mesquite, TX. Along with curating exhibitions, I manage the Eastfield College Permanent Art Collection which houses over 160 artworks with a primary focus on artists who have lived or worked in Texas. I am the founder and curator of Terrain Dallas, a temporary public exhibition space with a focus on exhibiting site specific, temporary interventions by established and emerging artists in and around the conventional landscape of a suburban front yard. My work has been included in exhibitions in across Texas, in Nashville, TN, New York, and San Diego, CA. Recent solo exhibitions include, Carry at the Texas Theatre in Dallas, TX in 2018 and Several, Near Each Other at Anthem Gallery in San Antonio, TX in 2017. Forthcoming projects include a group exhibition curated by Allison Starr featuring myself, Kristen Cochran and Nic Mathis at Mountain View College's Cliff Gallery in Fall 2019.
500X: What years were you a member of 500X?
500X: Were you ever a 500X officer? If so, what position(s)?
IB: Yes, President
500X: Who were some of the other members with you?
IB: Brennen Bechtol, Jennifer Pepper, Charlotte Smith, Becca Booker, Kyle Wadsworth, Mary Nicolett, Keitha Lowrance, Brad Wehring, Robert Boland, Jen Rose, Tara Welch, Mirka Hokonnen, Simeen Ishaque, C.J. Davis, Jim Burton, Luke Sides, Tony Schraufnagel, Brad Cushman, Garland Fielder, Sarah Maxwell English, Takako Tanabe, Erik Tosten, Veronica DeAnda Tosten
500X: Tell us about your time at 500X. What was it like?
IB: Being at 500X was one of the most personally gratifying times in my life. I was still an undergraduate at UNT when I joined, so it was very encouraging to be accepted. I mean, I was shocked they accepted me. I remember one member saying I got the vagina vote, but I was ecstatic nonetheless. Being a member was was both challenging and rewarding. I think every member knows that the work is both physically and mentally taxing at times (painting the entire gallery in August), but also has enormous payoff in the form of exhibition opportunities and making important connections with other artists, curators, and collectors. I made some very important key connections at 500X. I might not be curating or making art right now if I didn't have those connections or experiences.
500X: Do you have a favorite moment from your membership?
IB: My last year or so at 500X I was also the Gallery Coordinator at El Centro College. At that time I was in conversation with Houston artist Bert Long Jr. about an exhibition and he inquired about seeing my work. He visited 500X and asked lots of questions about the work and my practice. He was genuinely interested and supportive. I remember being so unsure of myself and afraid of how varied in form and content my work had been. He was the first person to tell me that my work didn't need to be what others expected. I've never forgotten the generosity of his words. I try to think of Bert when I'm stuck.
500X: What do you think you gained from being a 500X member?
IB: As a young artist being at 500X with more established artists was like having a super mentor. Not only did I learn all the technical and business aspects of managing a gallery, but I had a formidable critique group in my fellow artists. They didn't go easy on me because I was new, but they were also supportive of my continued experimentation with materials and content. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to exhibit my work and learn all the aspects of managing a gallery. Many of my fellow 500X member artists are life long friends.